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Key Mechanic’s Lien Requirements in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York

By: Carolyn A. Young, Esq.

A mechanic’s lien is often a contractor’s most powerful leverage to ensure prompt payment on private construction projects. As your business expands into multiple states, it can be increasingly difficult to keep track of the various statutory deadlines to enforce these important lien rights. This article provides an overview of the key deadlines and requirements to protect your mechanic’s lien rights in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. 

While it is always advisable to consult with a qualified attorney in connection with filing your mechanic’s lien, understanding what the different state statutes require and keeping track of the key deadlines can help ensure that your attorney has enough time to prepare, record, and serve notice of your mechanic’s lien before your rights expire.

Connecticut General Statutes (C.G.S.) ch. 847 – Liens, §§49-33 – §49-40

  • A Preliminary Notice is not required; however, most subcontractors must give written notice to the owner (and in some cases, the general contractor) that they have furnished materials, labor and/or rendered services and intend to file a mechanic’s lien (“Notice”); written notice may be given any time after commencing work but no later than 90 days after the lienor’s last day of work.
  • The Notice and the Certificate of Mechanic’s Lien requirements may be satisfied in one document, but it still must comply with the statutes and contain the required information.
  • The Certificate of Mechanic’s Lien must be recorded within 90 days of the lienor’s last day of work.
  • The 90-day time limit to file a mechanic’s lien is strictly enforced and, depending on the circumstances, performing minor punch list, repair, or warranty work may not extend your mechanic’s lien rights. (See, What Does “Last Date of Work” Mean?)
  • The Certificate of Mechanic’s Lien must be recorded with the Town Clerk and then, depending on where the owner resides, true and attested copies must be sent to or served on the owner and/or general contractor by a marshal or other proper official within 30 days of recording.
  • A lienor must commence an action to foreclose a mechanic’s lien within 1 year of recording the Certificate of Mechanic’s Lien.
  • An owner’s liability for mechanic’s liens (the “lienable fund”) is limited to the amount it agreed to pay the general contractor for the work, less the estimated costs to complete the work, damages incurred by the Owner, and any bona fide payments made before receiving notice of any lien(s). 

Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.) ch. 254 – Liens on Buildings and Land

  • Preliminary Notice is not required; however, the lienable fund for a lower tier subcontractor may not exceed the amount due or to become due to the subcontractor whose work includes the work of the person claiming the lien, unless the lower tier subcontractor has given written notice of identification by certified mail to the original contractor within 30 days of commencing work.
  • A Notice of Contract may be filed any time after work begins but before the earlier of: (a) 60 days after a notice of substantial completion is filed on the land records; (b) 90 days after a notice of termination is filed; or (c) 90 days after the last day of work of any person/subcontractor performing under the general contract. 
  • One of the most significant differences between MA and CT is that under the MA mechanic’s lien statutes, the time to file a lien is not necessarily calculated from the lienor’s last date of work, but rather from the last date of work of the general contractor or any subcontractor performing under the general contract. 
  • As a result, even where a subcontractor is more than 90 days out from performing work, depending on the status and/or substantial completion of the project as a whole, that subcontractor still may have lien rights and should consult with a qualified attorney.
  • In addition to the Notice of Contract, a Statement of Account must be filed before the earlier of: (a) 90 days after a notice of substantial completion is filed on the land records; (b) 120 days after a notice of termination is filed; or (c) 120 days after the last day of work of any person/subcontractor performing under the general contract.
  • Copies of the Notice of Contract and the Statement of Account must be sent by certified mail to the owner and general contractor.
  • A lienor must commence an action to foreclose a mechanic’s lien within 90 days of filing the Statement of Account or else the lien is dissolved; the lienor also must file an attested copy of the complaint with the registry of deeds within 30 days of commencing the action.
  • In cases in which a lien is dissolved whether voluntarily or by failure to commence an enforcement action, a new notice of contract or statement of account may be recorded if the lienor is still within the time limits set forth above.

New York Lien Law (NY LIE) – Article 2 Mechanic’s Liens 

  • No preliminary notice required; however, the lienable fund is limited to the amount due under the general contract at the time the project owner has notice of any claims and/or liens.
  • Under NY law, the Notice of Mechanic’s Lien must be filed within 8 months of the last day of work, except for work performed at single-family residential property which must be filed within 4 months of the last date of work. However, If the Notice of Mechanic’s Lien is for retainage, it must be filed within 90 days of the date that retainage was due to be released.
  • If a contractor or subcontractor claiming a mechanic’s lien in NY does not have a place of business in NY, the Notice of Mechanic’s Lien must name an attorney with an address in NY.
  • The Notice of Mechanic’s Lien must be filed in the clerk’s office of the county where the property is situated. A copy of the notice of lien must be served on the owner, general contractor, and if applicable the subcontractor for whom the lienor performed, within 5 days before or 30 days after the lien is filed with the clerk’s office.  Affidavits of service must also be filed with the clerk’s office within 35 days of the filing of the lien or the lien will be dissolved.
  • Unlike CT and MA, the NY mechanic’s lien statutes also provide contractors with the right to claim a lien on public as well as private projects. A public improvement lien does not attach to real property, but rather is a claim on the public fund established for the public improvement project. A public improvement lien must be filed within 30 days after construction is completed and accepted by the public agency and there are specific requirements governing how Notice must be sent to the public agency and the general contractor. If you have not been paid on a public job in New York, you may have lien rights in addition to a bond claim and should consult with a qualified attorney.
  • An action to enforce a mechanic’s lien in NY must be commenced within 1 year of the filing of the lien, although there are statutory provisions that may extend the time to enforce a mechanic’s lien beyond the 1-year period. 

MKRB attorneys are admitted to practice in the state courts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York, and the federal courts in Connecticut and Massachusetts.  Please contact us at 860-522-1243 if you have any questions about your mechanic’s lien rights.

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Michelson, Kane, Royster & Barger P.C.

At Michelson, Kane, Royster & Barger P.C., our goal is to provide our clients with the advice and representation they need in order to meet their legal and practical objectives. Our team is experienced, collaborative, knowledgeable, and friendly. Several of our award-winning attorneys play key roles in construction organizations, and even help to shape the laws that affect the construction industry in Connecticut. Let us put our experience to work for you.

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